Three high school seniors entering college in the fall and two college freshmen will each receive $1,000 renewable scholarships for four years.
(July 1, 2021) Emilia Przepiora (Riverview High School), Melanie De La Rosa-Rein (Booker High School), and Kennedy Hart (IMG Academy)—all high school seniors who have served as members of their school’s Coexistence Club—were recently awarded $1,000 four-year renewable scholarships by Embracing Our Differences. They join Chloe Labrecque and Cam Pham, rising sophomores at the University of Florida, who received their first scholarship in 2020. The students are part of an EOD scholarship initiative that grants annual $1,000 renewable scholarships to three students at regional high school Coexistence Clubs. Current Coexistence Club locations include Booker, North Port, Riverview, Sarasota and Venice high schools and IMG Academy in addition to two middle school clubs at Laurel Nokomis School and Venice Middle School. Coexistence Club members serve as docents for thousands of students from area elementary and middle schools who visit EOD’s outdoor exhibit every year in addition to designing and leading student-driven initiatives in their schools to promote inclusion and acceptance.
“The fierce commitment of Coexistence Club members to promote diversity, inclusion, integrity and respect in their schools and at EOD’s annual exhibit led us to consider how we could further honor their efforts while also supporting their education after graduation,” says Ben Jewell-Plocher, EOD’s education director. “We are thrilled to work with all the amazing Coexistence Club students, the dedicated teachers who advise and guide this student-driven initiative and our steadfast supporters who make the Coexistence Club program and scholarships possible.”
Jewell-Plocher adds that award recipients need to demonstrate how the Coexistence Club and their participation as docents for EOD’s exhibit has had an impact on their life, point of view, and high school career.
Emilia Przepiora will be starting at University of Florida in the fall, majoring in psychology. She says she’s “incredibly honored to have received the EOD scholarship. Being a part of the Coexistence Club has been a privilege. My roles as officer and co-president have allowed me to give back to my school community by being the facilitator of such an amazing message. The mission of EOD is one that I believe is important for young minds to learn and take forward with them as they become global citizens. Earning this scholarship is a reminder of all the memories and lessons this organization has provided me with, which I will carry with me throughout my continued education.”
Melanie De La Rosa-Rein will be starting at State College of Florida in the fall, majoring in psychology. “I am beyond honored to be one of the recipients of the scholarship and I will absolutely continue to uphold EOD’s values not only through college but as well as life,” she says. “I heard a quote a couple of days ago, ‘it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice,’ and I 100 percent desire to live my life by that quote.”
Kennedy Hart is a recent IMG Academy graduate and will be starting at Rice University in the fall, majoring in bioscience. “I am honored to have received a scholarship from EOD, but that is not what I will remember about being in the Coexistence Club,” she says. “Through EOD, I was challenged to be open-minded, embrace different perspectives, and express myself. I will carry these lessons and experiences with me for the rest of my life.”
Chloe Labrecque was a Riverview Coexistence Club member and EOD exhibit docent for four years and will be a sophomore at University of Florida in the fall, majoring in English. She says that her experiences with Embracing Our Differences and the Co-Existence Club “provided me with a toolkit that I have carried with me into my college years. Some of these tools are concrete and measurable, such as the ability to deconstruct a piece of art, which guided me through a final essay, and others less so. The skills I learned as a docent and the core tenets I hold dear have only grown increasingly useful as I begin to navigate into my adult life. The way I see it, my time with the Co-Existence Club and Embracing Our Differences was an exercise in empathy, necessary not because I would lose this metaphorical muscle without practice, but because through encouraging empathy in others I can help the collective body grow stronger.”
Cam Pham was a Riverview Coexistence Club member and EOD exhibit docent for three years and will be a sophomore at the University of Florida in the fall, majoring in business. “As an Asian-born person, I have always struggled to love my culture because of the judgements I encountered when I first came to the United States,” she says. “It was hard to ignore those hate words, yet it felt good in the end when I have realized that I am more than just Asian. We are all humans and more alike than different. I joined an organization called Asian Pacific Islander Desi Affair (APIDA) within the department of Multi-Cultural and Diversity Affairs (MCDA) at UF to promote Asian awareness within the UF community. The Coexistence Club and EOD have a special place in my heart—and where I was given the opportunity to participate in raising awareness for important social issues.”
For 18 years, Embracing Our Differences has drawn on the passion and perception of artists, students, writers, and others to create powerful statements of diversity and acceptance in its annual outdoor public art exhibition consisting of 50 billboard-sized works of art and accompanying quotes. The scale and impact of this outdoor exhibition has continued to grow, attracting more than 3.55 million visitors since its inception. This exhibit is the heart of a year-round program of activities designed to use art as a catalyst to create awareness and promote diversity. The 2021 exhibit has been extended and is on view at Nathan Benderson Park in Sarasota through August 8. For more information about Embracing Our Differences, call 941-404-5710, or visit www.embracingourdifferences.org.
Group photo Caption: Ben Jewell-Plocher, Chloe Labrecque, Cam Pham, Melanie De La Rosa-Rein (Not Pictured: Kennedy Hart, Emilia Przepiora)
About Embracing Our Differences
Embracing Our Differences is a not-for-profit organization that uses the transformational power of art and education to celebrate and promote the diversity of the human family. It accomplishes this through an annual, large-scale outdoor juried art exhibition and a comprehensive series of educational initiatives, programs and resources designed for teachers and students. Visit www.embracingourdifferences.org.